Suffolk County's West Nile hotline has been activated so residents can report sightings of dead birds -- part of the county's "effort to detect and prevent" the spread of the virus, officials announced Thursday.
Mosquitoes that feed on infected birds spread the virus to humans through their bites. Last year ranked as the second-worst in U.S. West Nile virus cases since the disease was first detected in this area in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Nassau and Suffolk counties reported 14 human cases each last year, including one Nassau death.
"Residents are encouraged to report sightings of dead birds, such as crows, blue jays and hawks, that may have been infected with the virus," to the hotline at 631-787-2200, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, until Labor Day, county health officials said in a news release.
Birds that meet the health department's criteria will be picked up on a weekday and tested for the presence of the virus.
"If it is determined by health officials that a reported bird is not needed for testing or if a dead bird is discovered on a weekend, residents should take proper precautionary measures: Put the dead bird into a doubled bag using gloves and a shovel, and dispose of it in the trash," the release said.
Officials emphasized that humans cannot get the virus from contact with the birds. The virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
The CDC says West Nile symptoms include headache, body aches and fever. Some victims recover within days. Still, others can suffer more severe symptoms, including paralysis and disorientation.
For more information, visit suffolkcountyny.gov/health and search under Seasonal Trends.
With Patricia Kitchen